by Erin Meyer
An international student told me a professor looked over his paper and made a few suggestions. “You might think about changing page 2 and consider again what you wrote on page 9.”
My friend told me, ” I thought about changing page 2 and I read again what I wrote on page 9, but I decided not to change it. When I met with my professor again and he saw I made no changes, he was upset with me. But why? He asked me to think about it, not to change anything. So I considered but I decided what I wrote was good, so I left it.”
What happened? One person, the professor came from a culture of where requests to change come in the form of a suggestion. The student came from a culture where a suggestion is just a suggestion. Telling a person to change something comes in the form of, “Change this.” No wonder each person was confused.
Erin Meyer’s book, The Culture Map, takes eight topics of cultural confusion and helps the readers sort how each culture sees things. Included is a diagram which shows how countries tend to behave. Below are the topics.
Navigating Cultural Ways of Doing Things
- Communicating: explicit vs. implicit
- Evaluating: direct negative feedback vs. indirect negative feedback
- Persuading: deductive vs. inductive
- Leading: egalitarian vs. hierarchical
- Deciding: consensual vs. top down
- Trusting: task vs. relationship
- Disagreeing: confrontational vs. avoid confrontation
- Scheduling: structured vs. flexible
The discussion guides are found by going to “Eight weeks of Conversation Cafe.”
Best wishes for successful English conversations this fall, 2021 and beyond.